Sunday continued our focus on mixing heavy posterior chain movements with complimentary, but lighter weight, posterior chain movements. For example, last Sunday we paired heavy front squats with sets of lighter weight RDLs in between. This week we combined heavy Zercher squats with body weight Bulgarian split squats.
The Zercher squat is named after a lift developed by Missouri-born strongman Ed Zercher. Zercher’s are great for working the glutes and hamstrings, abs and back. They are a great supplement to your deadlift training, though they do take a little getting used to.
To perform the Zercher squat, begin with a barbell in a rack at about stomach height (above the navel, but below the sternum). Loop your arms under the bar so that it’s resting in the crooks of your elbows, with elbows about shoulder width apart and knuckles pointed up towards the ceiling. Take a deep breath into your abdomen, and lift the bar out of the rack. Assume your squat stance (you may want your feet slightly wider than normal to ensure that the elbows don’t drive into the tops of your thighs), and really press your abs into the bar. Concentrate on driving the knees out and push the hips back as your descend, squatting down until parallel or slightly below (if you can, try to get the bar to touch the top of the thighs). To stand, keep your back tight and push the fists towards the ceiling while driving the hips forward.
Zercher’s can be tricky, key in on keeping as upright as possible with the bar pulled in tight to the abdomen. The weight will tend to pull you forward, and if you allow the elbows to pull out away from the body as you descend, the tendency to get pulled forward will increase significantly. Zercher’s can also be uncomfortable, but using a thick bar, or using a pad or a towel wrapped around a regular barbell, will help.
Now, truth be told, the Zercher squat is actually a pared-down version of the original Zercher lift. If you ever want to have a little fun, try out the original Zercher lift, which starts with the bar on the floor instead of in a rack. From the floor, deadlift the bar up to standing, then squat down to parallel with the bar balanced on your thighs and hook your arms under the bar as you did with the Zercher squat. From this position, squat the bar up to standing. To put the bar, reverse the process: squat down to parallel, balance the bar on your thighs, re-grip the bar with your hands, and then lower it to the platform (for true 1RM Zercher’s you’re actually allowed to drop the bar from the crooks of your arms so long as it’s below your knees).
The Zercher squats were paired with 10 body weight Split Squats per leg, all done at a tempo pace of 1-2-1-0 (so a 1 count descent, 2 count hold at the bottom, 1 count ascent, and zero count hold at the top). There was some question as to placement of the front foot (farther out versus in closer), but the truth is that it depends: the key is to keep the front shin as vertical as possible, so adjust how far out you step the front foot accordingly.
Once the the discomfort of holding a barbell with your elbows was over, class moved on to the discomfort of a slinging dumbbells around. Weight for the DB snatches was anywhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of your body weight. To complete the met-con, perform 21 DB snatches with the right arm, 21 push-ups, 21 DB snatches with the left arm, and then 21 hollow rocks (back and then forwards again = 1 rep), before repeating the 4 exercises at 15 reps each, and then 9 reps each. Mark and Julia were the pair to catch, both setting blistering paces with little to no rest. Awesome work with a unique and potentially uncomfortable movement.
All this work was not in vain though, as it prepared everyone who was available to chow down at the CFDC Holiday Get-Together, which included a seriously delicious pot-luck feast.
Many thanks again to Ben and Erica for hosting what turned out to be a definite success, full of good times and good friends. It’s always fun getting to see everyone in “street clothes,” and the good food and drink was icing on the cake. It didn’t hurt that there was real icing on a real cake either!
Speaking of the holidays, a quick announcement about classes over the holidays:
(1) the gym will close early Fri, Dec. 23rd, but CF Dupont’s 6 and 7pm classes will be held at their normal times;
(2) the gym will remain closed Saturday (Dec. 24th), Sunday (Dec. 25th), and Monday (Dec. 26th). CFDC will NOT hold class on Christmas Day (Sunday, Dec. 25th) nor will CF Dupont hold classes on Boxing Day (Monday, Dec. 26th);
(3) all classes will resume their regular schedule as of Tuesday, Dec. 27th;
(4) Finally, CFDC will be hosting a special New Years Day workout (Sunday, Jan. 1st). Most likely we’ll get started at our usual time, but we’ll keep you updated as we get closer. If you’re leaving town (or already left), enjoy your Holidays.